Thursday, June 29, 2006

Novell's SLED 10, Gimmie, Evolution

Watch out Ubuntu: SLED 10's in town

Novell has been creating buzz with their new SUSE Linux Enterprise 10.
Why all the buzz?
Watch these videos and you'll find out. Pretty nifty stuff going on there - SUSE 10 has the potential to do very well in the business desktop market.
OS News was pretty impressed by the prerelease, and Nat Friedman has some links to and quotes from SLED 10 reviews that are very interesting as well.
Check them out!
I'd be willing to install SUSE 10 on my home PC, but I'm not sure what the package situation is like for SUSE. I really like having 19,000 packages available to me through Synaptic - It'd be hard to give that up. Maybe SUSE 10 at work, Ubuntu at home?

First release of Gimmie

Gimmie (aka. Gimmebar) got its first release recently. It's a replacement for GNOME's panels which people seem to be fairly interested in. There's a great presentation (PDF) summarizing where the development is headed and explaining the concepts behind it. I haven't personally tried Gimmie yet, but its coolness factor is steadily increasing. One day, Gimmie, one day.

Evolution evolution?

Dave Richards has a plugin architecture in mind for Evolution that would "[make] evolution cool". If the ability to download and display movie showtimes in Evolution isn't cool, then I don't know what is. The architecture is still early in development, so we'll just have to hope that this one matures.

HOWTO: Scream "I know nothing about Linux"

I'm sure this happens to other people on a regular basis too, so I guess it just goes to show that there's tons of "computer experts" out there who don't have a clue when it comes to Linux (or maybe just haven't read ANY tech news site on the net in the past 8 years):

Yesterday someone asked me at work what version of Linux we were running on one of our servers.
I told him, "Ubuntu 6.06".
He replied, "Why don't you run Redhat? Why are you using such an obscure version??? I've never heard of that..."


I love people who know absolutely nothing about Linux, but like to throw the term "Redhat" out there just to look cool, but end up looking like an ass anyways.

The revolution's got a ways to go yet. ;)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Ubuntu 6.06 and NTP: The revelation of suggesting packages

I was playing around with my system the other day, and I stumbled across the "Adjust Date & Time" dialog in Ubuntu/GNOME:

At first glance, this was a beautifully designed dialog. Every button has an icon, and the layout is very clean.
I noticed the option to "Periodically synchronize clock with Internet servers", which is something that I thought my Ubuntu machine did already. After checking off the box beside it, I was presented with something that I made my jaw drop:

That's right - Ubuntu knew I didn't have the right package(s) installed, explained to me what I needed to do, and gave me an option right there to do it.
After clicking "Install NTP support", I got exactly what I had hoped for:

Granted, after it installed the NTP packages, I did have to close the date/time dialog and open it again for it to detect the packages (it's a small bug), but the functionality was there nonetheless.

Why did I get excited by this?

An intelligent package suggestion mechanism ("suggest/install a package") should be the next killer feature for Ubuntu on the desktop. Imagine for a moment, you've just installed Ubuntu on your friend's computer. They try to download and play an MP3, but are given a cryptic error message whenever they try to play an MP3 file. They don't know what package to install, or even know that there is a package to install to fix this. Now imagine that they were given a suggest/install a package message instead. They would know exactly how to fix their problem, and could do it with the click of a button.

Why hasn't this been worked on before?

The importance and scope of this concept are huge. For example, if a user tries to open a 3d model file and doesn't have a program installed that can view it, they could be presented with a suggest/install a package dialog that allows them to install a viewer immediately.
Taking things a step further, if someone plugs in a piece of hardware that is supported by some extra modules that need installing, they could be presented with the same dialog, but would instead help them download the required package(s).
Lastly, imagine a new out-of-the-box user cracks open the Apple Trailers site in Firefox. They try to view a movie trailer, and Firefox pops up a suggest/install a package dialog that helps the user download the Totem plugin and/or the required gstreamer packages to playback Quicktime trailers properly.

What are all these situations like right now?

  • When a user clicks a file that doesn't have a viewer/handler installed, they get a message saying "Couldn't display....". To view the file, they'll have to know beforehand which package to install, or they'll have to consult the web.
  • When someone plugs in a piece of hardware that isn't recognized, and just needs some packages installed for it to work, they'll have to consult the web to figure it out.
  • When someone tries to view a trailer from the Apple Trailers site in Firefox, they are prompted by the "Plugin Finder Service" dialog, which tells them that "No suitable plugins were found." You can, in fact, watch a trailer from this site with the "totem-gstreamer-firefox-plugin" package installed (you might need the win32 codecs installed too, but I don't remember).

But there is hope:

What can you do to help?
  • Contribute to these Ubuntu specifications, and help bring them to the attention of developers.
  • Better yet, if you have the time and the skills, write some code!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

News Tidbits: New kernel, Edgy Stuff, Alky

Here's some interesting articles I've found over the past few days:

  • Jorge Castro mentions some possible features that are being worked on for Edgy.
  • Linux Watch gives an overview of the new 2.6.17 kernel, which include a nice speed boost for EXT3 filesystems (that's most people), the groundwork for better WiFi support (don't we keep hearing that?), and a cool SMP detection feature...

... and here's a piece of software to keep an eye on:


Alky is "is a tool that allows you to convert a Windows executable to a Mac OS X or Linux binary." It's an alternate approach of getting software to run on another platform (as opposed to the WINE approach, which they make clear on their site.) I was a bit skeptical at first, since they say they're "focused on high-end gaming at the moment". High-end gaming is the area where it's hardest to do any cross-platform chicanery because games often use a bunch of different advanced APIs (think DirectX, OpenGL, OpenAL, EAX, etc.), which can be tough to reimplement or work around.
However, later down their page I noticed:
Although it's a very new project, it will already convert (nearly) any Windows executable into a Mac OS X executable and attempt to run it, with some success and a fair amount more debug data.

Pretty good. I'm keeping an eye on this one.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

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I'm not if this is a good thing or a bad thing... There were a lot of new upstream releases in those updates, but, uhh... Dapper's supposed to be done!

Free bug fixes never hurt though...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dapper a disapointment?

In in this week's's newsletter, I spotted a nice opinion piece about why you should give Fedora Core 5 a shot.
The interesting part to me was in the second paragraph though:

Despite having been delayed by six weeks for "polish" and carrying a "Long Term Support" tag, the Ubuntu 6.06 release was a disappointment.

I think that's the first time I've read of anyone just flat out calling Ubuntu 6.06 a disappointment. Interesting? Definitely. Accurate? Probably more so than I'd like...
I can't really put my finger on it, but Dapper definitely has some rough edges. (I've been struggling this week on a new system with Dapper's installer, which seems to mess up installing GRUB in any configuration but the simplest one...)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Google Earth for Linux!

I never thought I'd see the day:

Yeah, I've got a lot of crap installed...

Google has just released a beta of Google Earth for Linux. It includes a better-than-usual installer, and appears to be WINE based (I stand corrected) uses QT3 as a graphics toolkit. From what I can tell, it's got all the features of the Windows version. It's nice to see this awesome application finally be released for Linux.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Google Spreadsheets

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To my delight, when I opened my inbox this morning I found an invitation to try Google Spreadsheets. It's got a decent amount of spreadsheet functions (probably all the Excel ones), a cool AJAX-ified interface, and a nice auto-save feature.
I was hoping that it would be able to generate some funky SVG plots, but it looks like it can't do any plotting at all right now.
If someone discovers any more cool features, please post them in the comments!

(Oh yeah, and this isn't very Linux related, but oh well...) ;)

(... and another note: Don't mind OS X in the screenshot - I'm at work) :D

Monday, June 05, 2006

Gaming in XGL: Finally

Looks like I've been out of the loop for a while, because someone finally figured out how to get OpenGL accelerated apps to run on XGL without any noticeable performance hit. I just tested it with my Dapper/GNOME/Nvidia setup, and it works great!

This fix works by allowing those applications to run on the regular Xorg X server that runs beside XGL. The only side-effect is that if you try to run games in windowed mode, you won't be able to move them around because there won't be a window manager running on the other X server (although you might be able to just run one, but I haven't tried it.)
(... so no wobbly Quake 3 this way, but at least it works at full speed!)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ubuntu 6.06 LTS Released!

Ubuntu 6.06 LTS was just released!

This new version features:

So what are you waiting for? Download it now!